A new campaign, Be Real: Body Confidence for Everyone, which is aimed at changing attitudes to body image, is being launched to mark the start of Body Confidence Week.
Those behind the campaign have released figures which show that 16m people in the UK are depressed due to the way they think they look and 18m people do not exercise due to body anxiety. One in four people say body image has held them back from enjoying a fulfilling relationship, and one in five have avoided going for a job they wanted for the same reason.
The Be Real campaign says that the pressure of trying to achieve an unrealistic ideal body is trapping millions of people in the UK in an unhealthy cycle of depression, short-term dieting, cosmetic intervention and eating disorders.
Be Real was formed in response to the 2012 Reflections on Body Image report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Body Image. It is chaired by Tory MP Caroline Nokes and run by the youth charity, YMCA.
Ms Nokes said: “Low body confidence is a critical public health issue that we cannot ignore. It affects everyone – all ages, both sexes – and starts as young as five years old. Be Real wants to change attitudes to body image, and help all of us, whatever our size, ethnicity or ability, to put health above appearance and be confident with how we look and feel.”
The MP added: “We want to ensure children and young people are educated about body confidence from an early age, to promote healthy living and wellbeing over weight loss and appearance, and to encourage the media, business and advertisers to recognise diversity and positively reflect what we really look like.”
A quarter of those surveyed said they struggled to keep up exercise and diet regimes, and a fifth admitted they skip meals to lose weight. A third said they return to their previous weight after dieting and more than one in seven people have considered cosmetic interventions. Almost a fifth of 18 to 24-year-olds are currently taking muscle building supplements to improve the way they look, the campaign said.